Kelsey Andries

Muay Thai World Champion

Filtering by Tag: Canada

World Championships 2016 - From Calgary to Poland

Its been a whirlwind first week of travel and training so please forgive the late first blog post.

And it begins...

After what has seemed like the longest training camp in recorded history, I am in Sweden. FINALLY.  The last 2 months have been intense. We increased our training frequency to make more time for one on one work, running, hitting pads etc. It was really nice because I felt like a professional athlete for the first time in my life. Muay Thai has very much been my job for the last 8 weeks and I loved it. Don't get me wrong. It was hard as fu*k, but it was awesome. 

My typical day looked like this:

  • 6am Wake up to the yells of my hungry cats
  • 6:30am Drink ALL THE COFFEE
  • 7-10am Working with my awesome clients at Vita Fitness (shout out!!)
  • 10:30-11:30am Meditate
  • 11:30 Light Lunch
  • 12-1pm Glorious pre-training nap to save my ass
  • 2:30-4pm Run to the gym, small group training, run everywhere else like a crazy runner person
  • 4:30 Eat, rest, email, random cat based activities such as throwing string, belly rubs
  • 6:30-9:30 Run back to the gym, skip, shadow box, bag work, pads, sparring, clinching and getting hit with the discipline stick should I take too long to do any of the aforementioned
  • 10:00pm Late dinner of ridiculously healthy foods
  • 11:00 Hit the HAY 

Our Calgary based Team Canada athletes, consisting of me, Hilary Herman, Jessica Glasdstone and Melissa Reaume,..along with Kru Artur Nowacki, left for Europe on May 11th. The actual IFMA World Championship Tournament does not officially start until well, yesterday, but we wanted to head over early to shake off the jet lag, finish training AND….meet Art's mom Maria. 

We flew from Calgary to Amsterdam, then Amsterdam to Berlin. From Berlin we called "some Polish guy" that Art's sister set us up with and he drove us to Szczecin, Poland. As soon as we got into Szczecin the history lessons from Art began which I loved.

This city is very interesting, especially if you like old things (which I do) and cool architecture (which I do). I wish I had more time so I could take more pictures.

Essentially it is a mixture of pre-war buildings that are beautiful but took a shit kicking during the war and were never repaired, plain jane concrete communist era buildings, reclaimed buildings that are painted crazy colours and ultra modern buildings. Beautiful insanity. 

We checked in our hotel, the Park Hotel, which I would highly recommend if you ever find yourself in Poland.

THE. BEST. COFFEE. IN. MY. LIFE.

Like no joke. I drank so much coffee that the severs thought I was actually nuts. The breakfast there was also to die for. Its a shame that I had to monitor my food intake so much with the upcoming weigh ins because I would have CRUSHED that breakfast buffet if I could. 

We had a great few days in Szczecin training at Linke Gold Team Pozan. Art knew the guy that owns the gym. They train JiuJitsu and MMA, so there was lots of mat space as well as a heavy bag for us.  We trained two times a day for the 3 days were were there. Lighter sessions in the morning and then longer harder sessions in the afternoon. We were all battling jet lag so in some sessions we would have energy and others we would all feel like a bag of smashed a$$holes. But we all got better and stronger after each training session so despite what we felt like, Art was happy with our performances.  

Despite the jet lag, we did try and get out to see some of what Szczecin has to offer. Hilary, Mel and I took a cab down to the Central Cemetery. It was established in 1901 and is the largest cemetery in Poland and the 3rd largest in Europe, spanning 167.8 hectares. It has over 300,000 graves and is still growing and is a legally protected national monument.

It was beautiful. It is a mixture of a natural park, monuments, architecturally gorgeous chapels, winding roads and of course many many graves. I have never really spent much time in a cemetery but what stuck out for me was how well taken care of the ENTIRE place was. While we were there, we saw so many people bringing flowers and candles to their loved ones. People sitting in silence. And many people cleaning the graves. Washing the headstones, raking up the leaves and even planting and maintaining flowers and greenery around the sites of their loved one.

It was also really sad. Art told us (as we couldn't read any of the signs that were set up throughout the cemetery) that during the war, 1 in 5 Polish people were killed. 20% of the population.  We walked through the military section and saw all the unmarked graves. The cemetery also had special sections for people who died at sea, unborn children and concentration camp victims.

The last night we were in Szczecin was really special. We took an adventurous little road trip to Art's home town to have dinner with his family. We got another history lesson about the area which was hilarious, crazy, cool and at times slightly terrifying. He told us stories about "treasure" hunting with his friends in abandoned bunkers and tunnels that were built by the Germans in the war.

And then we made it to his house where we had THE BEST MEAL since landing in Europe. His mom made Polish Pancakes, cabbage/tomato/cucumber salad, stewed chicken, rice and potatoes.

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I tried one pancake and it was delicious. I asked Maria if she would share the recipe with me so I can make then at home (and gluten free!) and she said YES. I am super stoked to have this recipe in my collection.

 

It was so nice to have a home cooked meal before heading to Sweden. We got lots of hugs, well wishes, clean laundry and I scored a bag of walnuts from the tree in the backyard. Oh and lots of laughs too. So many laughs. And then we were on our way...

I am attempting to make a few video of our adventures so here is the first one. I hope you enjoy Episode 1.

 

Fight vs. Isa Keskikangas

Fight vs. Keskikangas - October 17, 2015 Journey Fight Series, Calgary, AB

Photo Credit: M. Hawkes Photography

Photo Credit: M. Hawkes Photography

Saturday night was my professional debut in my hometown. I got to do what I love most, with the people I love most, IN FRONT of the people I love the most. It doesn't get much better than that.  I faced Isa Keskikangas from VBC Muay Thai in Stockholm, Sweden. Isa won gold at the 2014 IFMA World Championships at 71kg. 

The camp to get ready for this fight was insanely tough…for so many reasons. It was the hardest training I have done in my life. And I have been in the training game a long time. I was dealing with issues in my personal and professional life that should have consumed me right up and left nothing for the training.  Should being the operative word. But they didn't. Had I faced these same issues a year ago they would have eaten me right up. But I am different now.

I wrote in my last post about my experience at a 10 day Vipassana Meditation retreat. The tools I learned there as well as maturing as athlete made training for this fight fundamentally different. Most notably, I managed my emotional stress through meditation and my view of the coach + athlete relationship shifted. In past camps when the training load increased or I was getting pushed hard I would take it personally. Like "why is he trying to hurt me?". The shift in this camp was to remove this self-centred view on training and realize every action in training is to make me better at my sport.

I can clearly remember the day it clicked. Kru Artur was watching me in sparring and was correcting EVERYTHING I was doing. We had implemented some changes to my stance and I was trying so hard to do it perfectly. And in trying too hard I was over thinking it and NOT doing what he wanted. And he kept telling me. And I kept taking it personally and thinking that I was a shitty person because I couldn't figure it out. And then I cracked. I shut down and he could tell. He took me aside and explained something to me that changed everything. "Kelsey, I am not telling you that you are a bad person because you cannot do what I ask. My job as the coach is to assess the technique and tell you if it is correct or not. Right now, it is not correct, but that is not a reflection of you as a person. Take yourself out of this and you will, with practice, be able to do this correctly".

WOAH. Huge shift. I slept on that and woke up the next morning with a deeper understanding of my role. And I went to the gym and let my body take over. I surrendered my ego. My attachment to the outcome. My obsession with being perfect and I just trained. It was the best rounds on the pads I had all camp, and in that moment I knew I was ready for the fight against Isa. 

Photo Credit: M. Hawkes Photography

Photo Credit: M. Hawkes Photography

Fight day was different than usual. It was calm. I felt really good all day. I was happy. I arrived early to the venue to get settled, get my hair braided (any fighter chick knows the importance of this) and start to warm-up. I didn't really feel like I was in my body. I felt like I was floating above myself watching a movie play out. 

We had 5 fighters on the card that night so the team was busy with wrapping hands, rub downs and making sure we were prepared. It was organized chaos as usual, but I liked the mayhem. It kept my mind occupied and before I knew it, I had to get ready. 

The battle started with out walkout songs. I had wanted to use "Bitch Better Have My Money" by Rihanna but it was a bit too racy for the family crowd. I went to the DJ to give him my second option and he told me that Isa had picked "Move Bitch" by Ludacris so I could use BBHMM! In that moment I knew it was going to be awesome. Clash of the Vikings and Clash of the walk out songs. 

Photo Credit: Mark Neustaedter

Photo Credit: Mark Neustaedter

I was happy to debut a new Wai Khru that night. I thought it fitting for my first pro fight. I LOVE performing the Wai Khru. It centres and focuses me and is an expression of my gratitude to my teachers. This particular one was representative of a raven building a nest and then fiercely protecting it. Pretty much my jam :)

And then we were off. Isa was a focused and experienced competitor. We spent Round 1 feeling each other out and trying to establish our ranges. I listed to Art, stayed calm, landed a few shots but spent most of the round watching her and what she was going to do. 

We came out in Round 2 and she picked up pace a bit. I worked on staying calm and landing the kick at the right time. Isa countered the kick really well - faster than I was expecting so I knew I needed to counter the counter but was having trouble finding the timing. She was also moving into the clinch after her punches so we spent some time there as well. I felt strong in the clinch and was working towards my favourite positions but felt that it was broken up early a few times by the referee.. 

Photo Credit: Mark Neustaedter

Photo Credit: Mark Neustaedter

Photo Credit: M. Hawkes Photography

Photo Credit: M. Hawkes Photography

We exchanged a few kicks and then she moved into the clinch again. I could see that we were close to the corner so I tied her up, moved her into the corner and landed a few knees. I had inside control with both my hands on her head. She moved her left hand for a split second and I saw the smallest opening and threw a right upper elbow that landed right between her eyes. I saw the cut open up and tried to land a left level elbow to finish but she tied me up. She was bleeding pretty bad and the referee called a time out to have the cut checked out. The ring doctor looked at it and said she couldn't continue. 

I was jazzed :) I finished the fight with a new weapon against strong and experienced competitor. Art was happy with my performance and so was I. I am excited to book another fight soon and get back to work. It was a real pleasure to compete against her.

A big thank you to my sponsors Stenia Health and High Performance, NIA Advent, Peak Performance, Blush Lane Organics and Team Smandych Muay Thai and Kickboxing. It is with your continued support that I am able to train and compete in the sport that I love. 

Thank you to Kru Trevor Smandych and the entire team of volunteers behind the scenes at Journey Fight Series. To have the opportunity to compete against world class athletes in my hometown is truly a gift. Your time and dedication to growing local amateur and professional Muay Thai in Canada is so appreciated. Thank you for giving me a place to compete.

Thank you to my Team Smandych teammates. Every one of you had a hand in helping me prepare for this fight, but a few gave me an extra push. Thanks to my soul sister and glamazon twin Hilary "The Huntress" Herman for all the rounds, the clinch master "Shotgun" Sean McKinnon, Luke Theriault for all the elbow technique and Faraaz Kahn everything from to sparring to countless massages. 

As last but certainly not least, thank you to Kru Artur Nowaki. I can't really put into words what working with you has done for me both personally and professionally. It has been life changing to say the least. You bring a level of professionalism to training that pushes me. Your humour keeps me smiling despite the intensity of our training. Your technical expertise has me so geeked out on Muay Thai and inspires me to teach others.  It is an honour to fight for you.

Photo Credit: Mark Neustaedter Photography

Photo Credit: Mark Neustaedter Photography

Fight vs Erica Bjorenstrand

Fight vs. Bjorenstrand - April 18, 2015 Journey Fight Series, Calgary, AB

Another first for me. MY FIRST FIGHT AS A SOUTHPAW. WHAT?? Yes you read right. In November we had a new coach join our team to help train the fighters. Artur Nowaki spent years training, fighting and studying Muay Thai around the world and in Thailand. His knowledge of the sport, his ability to teach and explain the technical side of Muay Thai and his passion was instantly loved by Kru Trevor and the rest of the fight team. He came in and started training us in his systems and I was falling behind and I didn’t know why. One day, just before Christmas he came in and was like (insert awesome Polish accent here), “I was washing my dishes last night and thinking about you. I think we should try you southpaw!” My first, uncensored, pit of my stomach though was YES. I don’t know why but I just knew that it would be ok.

So begins my journey of trying to learn Muay Thai like I have never learned it before. After about 4 months of solid training, it was time for my fist fight….an “experiment” as Artur said. We don’t really know how well I have adapted until we try it in the ring. He and Kru Trevor set up the fight against Erica Bjorenstrand of Sweden. She is a bronze medalist from the 2014 IFMA World Championships at 63.5kg, the weight class below me.  I knew she would be a good fighter and Kru Art knew of her club and coach and said they are good.

I was fighting in my hometown and I think everyone I knew was there. I was excited by the cheers of the crowd and was super thankful to have everyone there, but hilariously I can’t actually look at anyone or talk to any of them before the fight. I think it is because I have to take my mind to a different place in order to perform, and when I see my sister, or my Dad, it reminds me of my everyday life and pulls me out of focus. So I avoid everyone, not because I don’t love them, but because I need to focus.

This fight was a blast for so many reasons.

1) Erica was TALL. Not as tall as my last opponent but tall enough that she teeped me in the face. HA! I loved it.

2) I had to think so strategically because NOTHING that worked for me in orthodox stance works as a southpaw. I could not rely on the weapons I have favored in the past.

3) I had to surrender and let my body perform. Many of the things I did in this fight were complete firsts….and they just came of out me. All the repetitions and training done over the last 4 months took over and starting coming out and it was pretty cool. 

4) I found my hands and my left roundhouse….very cool for me.

5) Erica was GAME! She wasn’t afraid of me (or at least did not show it) and brought it for the full five rounds of the fight. 

It was a super close fight. I thought I had done enough to win based on the weapons I threw and the power behind them but in the end I lost by split decision. I can completely understand why I lost and why Erica won based on how we fought.  She was a great opponent and I know she had just as much fun as I did in this experience. I was criticized by after this fight for losing. People said I could have won if I fought orthodox. People thought I never unleashed on her. People expected me to be mad that I no longer had a perfect record and questioned if I would quit after this loss. 

What many people didn't understand was after 14 times in the ring I am most proud of this fight because of what it represents to me, not to anyone else .

...a willingness to grow...

…instituting change not for the short term success but for long term success...

...thinking critically about whether I love Muay Thai or whether I love winning....

...risk and reward...

...sharing with the world my expression of Muay Thai....

I thank Erica for the opportunity to compete and for her contribution to my grow as an athlete :)

Fight vs. Candice Hardwick

Fight vs. Candice Hardwick, November 1, 2014 -Journey Fight Series - Calgary, AB

I am always the taller fighter…..always. At 6 feet tall I can pretty much bank on having the height advantage. Not against Candice! Trevor set up the fight and never outright told me how tall she was but said she would be a good match up for me. After some internet sleuthing I learned she was 6’3”. At first I freaked out but quickly got excited about the opportunity to fight someone bigger than me as I knew it would challenge me. The weapons that I usually rely on might not work with her and I was looking forward to having to adapt to the challenge during the fight.

The fight started at a nice pace. We both played the outside and kicked….a lot. I was landing my right leg kick nicely and I knew it was hurting her. I also moved into southpaw a few times (totally unconsciously) to set up for a left body kick.  She was long enough that when I was leg kicking she could land her cross. I did a decent job of head movement to avoid it but I needed to be careful and kick harder in order to avoid her counter. In between the 1st and the 2nd Kru Trevor told me to make sure that I reach with my leg kick so I don’t destroy my foot. Good advice.

The second round Candice put the pressure on early and we ended up in the clinch. She did a good job of tying me up…I managed to get a few knees off but nothing awesome. I switched to southpaw again, threw a left kick into Candice’s ribs and just hit my foot and heard a very large “POP” and when I put my foot down and I could feel that something was not right. Adrenaline was flowing so I knew I could keep fighting but I wasn’t going to throw any more left kicks.

The pace of the rest of the second was good…we were still figuring each other out and staying calm. I sat down to talk to my corner in between round 2 and 3 and within a few seconds the fight was called off. Something had happened to Candice’s right leg from checking my kicks. Everyone in the crowd thought it was her left leg that was injured (as that was the leg I was kicking) but it was actually her right leg. I still don’t know 100% what the injury was but I know it had something to do with a blood clot in the lower leg.

 

Its always a bummer to have a fight end under those circumstances. I was pretty upset that we didn’t really have a chance to bang, but it was a win. In the weeks after the fight  I told Kru Trevor it felt like I had fight “blue balls” because there was all this training and anticipation and then I never really got to explode like I wanted to. Oh well, bank that left over energy and aggression for the next one. 

Fight vs Jamie Droeske 2.0

Fight vs. Jamie Droeske 2.0, May 18, 2013, Fists of Fury Medicine Hat, AB

The rematch! Jamie wanted to fight me again, this time under her preferred rule set Kickboxing. It was harder training for this fight because I had never exclusively trained kickboxing before, and I like the clinch so taking that out limits my tools. 

In addition, the weigh ins were the same day as the fight, and we were meeting at 150lbs. I changed my nutrition substantially leading up to this fight to ensure I was 150lbs upon waking so I wouldn’t have to cut weight and fight on the same day. Mentally I felt very strong, I suspect because I had already fought her so I knew what to expect (or at least I thought I did).

The fight was tougher than the first time we met. We both went super hard in the opening minute and after the first round Kru Trevor had to remind me to stay calm, use my range and throw my cut kick….hard. So that is what I did in round 2 and 3. I won by unanimous decision and actually, during a few moments of the fight, felt the first inklings of having fun in a fight.

Fight vs Nichole Glazik

Fight vs. Nichole Glazik - March 2, 2013  Journey Fight Series, Calgary, AB

Nichole was not my original opponent for this fight and stepped up to fight me when one of her teammates had to pull out. She was much smaller than me and had a hard time with my range in this fight. I did not feel awesome leading up to this fight. I was exceptionally tired from training and work and just did not have the same energy that I usually do. I did not feel “on”.

I was quite a bit taller than Nichole and knew if I could stay on the outside I should be able to fight my fight. I was able to get into the clinch and spent quite a bit of time there in the first round, although I wasn't making space for my knees as I should have. The second and third I used my range and stayed to the outside throwing a lot of teeps...probably too many

The positive things I took away from this fight was learning to compete even if I didn’t feel 100% and this was the first fight that I  was really be able to hear my corner. I tried hard to end the fight by KO but it didn’t happen so I took the win by unanimous decision. I was super grateful for Nichole coming all the way up her to compete with me. 

This fight was right after the announcement was made the Wrestling was on the chopping block from the Olympic Games. I trained and competed in Freestyle Wrestling for the University of Calgary Dinos while in University so the news hit home. There was a large social media movement #saveolympicwrestling that I just had to be a part of so I had it silk screened on my fight bra to show my support. 

Fight vs Jamie Droeske

Fight vs Jamie Droeske - September 8, 2012 - Journey Fight Series, Calgary, AB

Shortly after my first fight the “I don’t want to do that again” faded and I was ready and excited for another fight. My coach set me up with Jamie, a much more experienced fights. She had a several fights and I have only fought once. Trevor said I could beat her and I believed it. I had to clear this fight with my husband because the fight was set on our wedding anniversary! 

 

The fight started slow but once we engaged Jamie pushed forward. She was aggressive and did not stop moving forward regardless of happened in the fight. She had experience on me and I had strength on her. She came from a gym that trains more Kickboxing than Muay Thai so I made sure to use the clinch as much as I could because I suspected she would not be comfortable there. I won the fight by unanimous decision.

Kelsey Andries © 2016